Jocquell Rodgers wants the Green Dot Public Schools community in Tennessee to recognize Fairley, Hillcrest and Bluff City High Schools for their academic achievements and not only their athletics and music programs.
“For a long time, Fairley has struggled academically. It has had great success in athletics in the past, it had great success with band, a world-renowned band and music program, but it was never known for its academic program,” said Rodgers, who assumes the Executive Director role in GDPS Tennessee. “That is what I would like to change. I want people to talk about Fairley and talk about Hillcrest and talk about how much the academic programs have changed, how much impact the schools have had in the community”.
Rodgers has been linked to the community long before Green Dot partnered with the Memphis-Shelby School District seven years ago. Even though she wasn’t born in Memphis, the educator has lived in the Fairley-Hillcrest community since she was five years old and feels she is a part of it.
“I have lived here since I was 5. I consider myself a lifelong Memphian. These children are my neighbors, what I want is what everyone wants, the want to see their neighbors thrive,” explains Rodgers. “I can walk to Fairley; I live in the neighborhood. I just don’t drive into this job, I am in the community, I work in the community, I live there. I grew up in the community where Fairley and Hillcrest are.”
Before her appointment, Rodgers served as Chief External Affairs Officer for GDPST. She has also served as the Director of Community Engagement with Green Dot and as an instructional coach with the organization. Prior to joining Green Dot in 2014, she worked with Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools as an educator and instructional leader.
“I really want to continue the work we’ve done. I’ve been here since Green Dot came to Tennessee and this is a great opportunity for me to just continue building on the work we have already done. We have strategic priorities for the next five years and what I would like to see is for those strategic priorities to come to full fruition,” said Rodgers.
“I want us to be an impact in the communities we serve, I want our students to thrive, I want them to spend more time in school than out of school. Academically we’ve had a great deal of success with the academic model we moved into. Those are things I want to continue. I want us to grow and benefit not just our students but everyone in the community, every family member and all our stakeholders,” explains Rodgers.
Since its partnership with the Memphis-Shelby district in 2014, Rodgers feels that Green Dot has established very close ties with the community, something she believes is crucial in developing students and preparing them for college, leadership, and life. So far, this has worked to perfection.
“I believe that if I had to measure our growth here in Memphis since Green Dot came in2014 into a very hostile Memphis, that we have created a narrative around our schools and around our work that has begun to speak for itself, so parents talk positively about us in public spaces in ways that have never been associated with some of the schools, and so for that I’m grateful.” Adds Rodgers.
She credits former Executive Director Dr. Megan Quaile with doing a lot of the hard work in developing many of the positive changes that the schools have achieved. As a recent example, under Dr. Quaile’s leadership, GDPS Tennessee schools had an outstanding mid-year outcome in the iReady assessments, where all five had a 130%+ in both Reading and Math.
One of the barriers that have been broken is giving students that fall 185% access to a great education and being prepared to pursue a college education.
“What we’ve been able to do is come in, even with those students living in such poverty, we’ve been able to provide access to academic opportunity, we've been able to provide access to college going culture taking them to campus,” highlights Rodgers.
After the recent graduation season, where Green Dot Public Schools in Tennessee awarded diplomas to more than 200 students in all three high schools, Rodgers feels excited and satisfied to be able to provide students with an education, something that at times, was unachievable for many.
“We had graduation season recently, it’s always one of the most exciting times for me because I see students who at one time never thought this was a possibility for them, walk across the stage and get a high school diploma. Sometimes they are the very first person to do that in their family and it’s a point of simple pride, it’s emotional,” said Rodgers.